Max Weber and the Ethos of Politics Beyond Calculation

SHALINI SATKUNANANDAN
AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW 108.1 (2014): 169-181

Abstract:  According to the prevailing interpretation of “Politics as a Vocation,” the Weberian political leader is willing to leave morality behind and make hard-headed consequentialist calculations about political means. I argue that the Weberian political leader is more accurately described as someone who keeps calculation in its place—both in terms of assessing the consequences of pursuing certain means and, more fundamentally, in terms of a basic framework for viewing responsibility and the world. Indeed, inappropriate substitutions of “calculative” thinking for a broader, more responsive thoughtfulness about the world mark Weber’s three paradigms of irresponsible political leadership: the morally absolutist politician, the bureaucratic politician, and the power politician. Further, foregrounding Weber’s effort to corral calculation reveals that uncompromising ethical stands in politics need not amount to naïveté or reckless disregard for the consequences, and that morality has a continuing claim on his ideal leader.